Florida A&M University students and professor rallied on campus to promote voter registration and awareness of student debt September 26.
The rally helped kick off the National Education Association's Degrees Not Debt campaign. The campaign is part of a country-wide initiative by the NEA to support relief for student debt and to encourage them to vote in favor of pro-education politicians.
Chelsey Herrig, Chair of the NEA student program helps coordinate the program across the country. She says the campaign serves not only to educate students but to also the public on student debt.
"Not only do we want degrees not debt, but we're making the public aware that there are ways to pay those back in a reasonable way with loan forgiveness and income driven payments," Herrig said.
Some students say are fed up with the high loan amounts and interest rates they left with upon graduating. The average student will be about $30,000 in debt upon graduation. Janae White, a FAMU graduate student, said she is one of the many students experiencing this problem.
"Every American deserves a fair shot at higher education, but student loan debt has become a barrier to the American dream,” White said.
Janae said everything is starting to become a reality to her as she is starting to pay off her school loans.
Cuts to Florida's Bright Futures scholarship program have not helped the debt problem. It's estimated that in three years, just over 83,000 students will be eligible for the program, down from 127,000 students this year.
FAMU students were able to sign a pledge supporting the campaign to be sent to members of congress. Student Florida Education Association spokesperson Tiffany McClary said she was overwhelmed with joy with the turnout of FAMU student.
"I am so happy right now. All these students came out to say 'I want my degree and not debt,'" McClary said.
Kamry Williams, a third-year pre-med student from Atlanta, Ga., said she wants to see ways of eliminating debt.
"Cost is a factor that makes students second guess themselves when picking a career,” Williams said. “They don’t want to go into fields that require higher-level degrees because they likely won’t be able to pay them off within their general life expectancy."
The campaign is making sure every student can get the education they need to get a good job, own a home and send their own children to college.